2011 NBA All-Star Game

Is it time for NBA stars to be more vocal during lockout?

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When the NFL was locked out during the summer, Drew Brees was front and center at the negotiating table, then standing in front of the cameras talking after the meetings. Tom Brady was one of the guys to file anti-trust lawsuits against the league. While in the end Jeff Saturday did the dirty work of negotiating, the stars were front and center.

For the NBA, you hear union president Derek Fisher speak, and sometimes other team reps like Roger Mason Jr., Maurice Evans or Jared Dudley.

Is it time for the stars to speak out for the union? Some around the league told David Aldridge of NBA.com that yes, the time is now.

“We’re all coming together and trying to speak to Derek Fisher, who’s a great guy and a great person,” Clippers forward Craig Smith said recently. “At the same time, there’s kind of a difference between him and Kobe. Just being honest….

“I think I would want to see them at the bargaining table,” Smith said last month, at the Goodman (D.C.)-Shaw League (L.A.) game in Washington. “I mean, I don’t know, I probably have a lot of people that probably agree with me, too, if we had those guys up front. Because (those are) people (who) you come to see win, every single game — [Dwyane] Wade, Carmelo, Stoudemire, KG [Kevin Garnett], you know? Those are our leading guys, every year.”

Aldridge asked Carmelo Anthony why the stars have not been front and center in this fight.

“We’re not allowed,” Anthony said. “I mean, everybody has their own opinion. You hear people talk here and there. But nobody comes out and says what they really want to say. That’s just the society we live in.”

He laughed a little. And, then: “Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali-type statements.”

Don’t bring in Ali, who said actual controversial things and then had to pay a price for his beliefs. Ali was talking about war and religion; you guys are talking about how to divide up billions amongst yourselves.

After that, Anthony said that he and guys like LeBron James and Chris Paul fully support the union. That they are sticking together.

A lot of stars attended a meeting All-Star Weekend that was mostly for show. And at a regional meeting just last month Kobe spoke to other players and urged them to stay unified behind Fisher and Hunter.

But would having the biggest stars in the league at the table make a difference? Likely not much in the negotiations. You can be sure a hardline owner is not going to be swayed by an argument because Kobe said it not Fisher or some attorney. It might help some with the public relations battle going on, giving the union a more recognizable face to put with the players positions. It can help show the players unity. It would get more publicity.

The NBA’s big stars were front and center in the 1998 labor battles but that was part of the problem — other union members thought the big names were out for themselves. So this time around they are staying quiet, letting the union leadership do the talking. And now they are getting criticized for that.

It may not matter if the stars step forward, but it might help some.

PBT Podcast: Derek Fisher fired, plus your trade questions from Twitter

Derek Fisher
Associated Press
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Derek Fisher is out as coach of the New York Knicks.

In this latest podcast, NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman discuss the odd timing of that move — we expect another shoe to drop as to why. It’s not that Fisher was a great coach, but replacing him with Kurt Rambis mid-season is not an upgrade. And Luke Walton isn’t available until this summer.

After struggling to figure out what the Knicks are thinking, Helin and Feldman answer questions off Twitter from readers/listeners on the coming trade deadline including discussions of Blake Griffin, Jeff Teague, the Pistons, the Jazz, the Knicks, and more.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Warriors’ center Festus Ezeli to have knee surgery, out indefinitely

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli, left, of Nigeria, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Denver. Golden State won 118-105. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press
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Festus Ezeli has been a rock-solid backup for the Warriors this season, playing almost 18 minutes a night behind Andrew Bogut giving the team 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a contest. Golden State’s defense is 3.6 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, and he’s part of the team’s long-term plans.

But he’s going to be out for a while now following knee surgery, the team announced and as reported by Monte Poole at CSNBayArea.com.

http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/festus-ezeli-undergo-knee-surgery

The surgery is exploratory, which is why the Warriors say there is no timeline for recovery yet.

The surgery is on his left knee; it was his right one that had reconstructive surgery and forced him to miss all of two seasons ago.

This is a blow to the Warriors’ depth, but little has slowed their march this season. More Mo Speights is not ideal, but the Warriors can just go small more often and run teams out of the building that way.

Ezeli is a restricted free agent this summer and the Warriors would like to keep him on the roster and expand his role, particularly if they do not retain Andrew Bogut. The severity of this knee injury could impact Ezeli’s ability to earn a big contract this summer, but hopefully for him, it’s not that serious.

Russell Westbrook stands behind Kevin Durant, mimics him during interview (video)

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, gestures after scoring as forward Kevin Durant stands by during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 117-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Choose your spin.

This is why Kevin Durant is leaving the Thunder. Russell Westbrook doesn’t respect him.

or

This is why Kevin Durant is re-signing with the Thunder. He and Russell Westbrook have so much fun together.

Report: Magic open to talking Tobias Harris trade, looking to add experience

Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) grabs the uniform of Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris (12) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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Tobias Harris signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Magic just last summer.

Now, just 50 games later…

Marc Stein of ESPN:

I’m skeptical this is significant. Teams discuss trades for many players for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean the player is likely to be dealt.

Orlando in particular has a roster of players who cause significant debate about their value. It’s helpful to know what other teams think of Harris, and soliciting trade offers is a good method to learn his worth.

It’s more intriguing the Magic are looking to add experience. They should probably go the opposite route, but they’ve tried (and failed) for years to accelerate their rebuild. At 22-28 – four games and three teams from playoff position – now is not the time to seek shortcuts. Spend the rest of the season developing young players – and probably securing a higher draft pick in the process.

One of Harris’ best traits is his youth. He’s just 23. See what other teams would offer for him, sure. But, in all likelihood, it’s better to let him grow into the veteran Orlando needs rather than trading him for one when the rest of the team isn’t ready to win, anyway.

My guess is that’s what Orlando will do. Remember, always consider who has incentive to leak this information anonymously and what they’d be positioned to know.